Sunday, March 30, 2014

Michael Bay's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie has a trailer.

Megan Fox aside, I have no problem with this.  Raph had better be sassy.

[update]  Wait, wait.  Y'know what?  This is much more interesting.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Comparing inFamous : Second Son.

So good-looking.

I'm a gamer.  I've played a lot of games.  I'm an encyclopedia of them.  It's a condition which offers insight and history and context, but it can also... hobble one's perspective, as much as a solid blow to the ankle.

Imagine, for example, if you were never to have tasted chocolate in your life.  Never, ever, ever.  Then, one day - after fasting for four-and-twenty hours, you were led into a room with ten different slices of beautiful, sumptuous, velvety chocolate cake.

You taste the first cake.  It is, bar none, the most sublimely delicious thing that has ever slid past your palette. You eat the whole thing!  You love that chocolate cake.

Then, you try the next one.  It's delicious too!  Different, but no less delicious.

By the time you get to the fifth piece of cake, you're comparing and contrasting.  By the time you're at ten, you fear you may have had your fill of cake.  This tenth piece is delicious, certainly, but it lacks the comforting, comfortable texture of piece #8.  Piece #6's chocolate was richer, and the cognac-laced mousse from cake #3 is missed.

inFamous : Second Son is the tenth piece of cake.  It is beautiful and delicious, but in comparing it to the history of inFamous games, it's not quite there.  Other cakes offered greater comfort, richer pleasures, deeper affection.  It's lacking.

Try to take it from me, and you'll find you've been stabbed with a dinner fork.

It is only in this comparison that Second Son suffers.  Comparing it to the landscape of titles on the PS4, it comes off quite well.  It's the best-looking game on the system.  Period.  Full stop.  It may not have the best story, but it definitely has the best story presentation, with exceptional performance capture in its cutscenes and exceptional work from the exceptional Troy Baker in particular.

Its world is not as staggeringly gigantic as Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, but it more than makes up for this with its standard-setting production values and generally more-interesting platforming, but when you compare it to another inFamous game, and it feels like we got all of the cake and none of the icing.

For example, this is a list of every enemy in the game (excluding bosses):

  • DUP trooper (cement power),
  • DUP trooper elite-ish (cement power - jumps),
  • DUP trooper commander (cement power - makes shields and can teleport),
  • big DUP trooper (cement power, miniboss),
  • an automated turret, if you'd prepared to count that, and
  • some vaguely eastern-European dudes with pistols, some cops with pistols, some drug dealers with pistols. 
Are you staggered by the variety?  Neither am I - particularly given the wonderful, creative rogues' gallery we saw in the past two inFamous games.  Remember doing a backflip dodge out of the way of a Reaper conduit's energy blast?  Remember fighting dudes on top of a moving fucking train?

inFamous (2009)

There were shooter Reapers and conduit Reapers and Reaper Terror Trucks - all kinds of Reapers!

Once you clear out the Reapers in the first inFamous game, you get to the second island - which has been taken over by the Dustmen - a bunch of homeless dudes who developed telekinetic powers, and have turned themselves into hulking golems of destruction.

inFamous (2009)

There were little Dust-dudes and bigger Dust-dudes and huge Dust-dudes that filled the screen and peppered you a telekinetically-driven trash machinegun!  And when you got to the third island, there was a whole new enemy type to overcome.

Same deal in inFamous 2, but things got even cooler there, by way of these awesome, huge biological horrors you were obliged to take down.

inFamous 2 (2011)

There were still different factions with vastly different abilities to contend with, but there were also terrible monsters thrown into the mix.  Gigantic, burrowing ravagers that tossed cars around like toys, the colossal devourers - taking these things down made you feel really, seriously badass.

In inFamous: Second Son, you don't get that variety.  You don't get the pleasure or confidence of taking down the type of monsters superheroes take down.  You take out a lot of DUP soliders and drug dealers.

That's it.

When it comes to the game's ultimate confrontation, it's not a spectacular, intimate one-on-one brawl in the middle of a blast crater (inFamous), it's not a city-spanning war of epic proportions (inFamous 2) or anything that'll show up on my Best Moments of 2014 list.

inFamous: Second Son's final boss fight is a throwdown with a large enemy in a small room.  It feels... so constrained.  So small - emotionally and mechanically - compared to what the series has given us before.

And now I'm gonna' discuss powers - I feel having two of the power spoiled for me by Eurogamer's review really hurt my enjoyment of Second Son - and things are gonna' get spoilery, so, pagebreak.

PS+ in April is dead sexy.

Mercenary Kings on PS4, the sublime Batman: Arkham City on PS3, along with Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark and Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse, and the excellent Velocity Ultra and Pixeljunk Monsters HD on Vita.

A great month of plus offerings, considering Arkham City alone.  I'll snag a digital copy of that, along with Mercenary Kings and Pixeljunk Monsters.

Stealth Inc...?  Meh.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ooh, The Last of Us is coming to PS4!

Sercan Sulun - Eurasian Software Market Manager for PlayStation - told this Turkish-language webcast (around the 35-minute mark) that

"There is no information about a new The Last of Us game but I can share this knowledge; as of this summer, The Last of Us will be on the PS4. Both on PSN and physically. The PS4 version will also include the DLC so you will be able to play 'Left Behind' as well."
And that is what I call good news.  The Last of Us still looks better than most next-gen offerings - this'll work out well.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Gamer Who Wouldn't Review.

At work today, I was writing the inFamous: Second Son review in my head.  Sort of.  Mulling it over, I mean.

We have a new manager in the office - nice guy - and he told me the other day he has a PS4.  Which, unless I'm mistaken, makes him the only other person in the office with a PS4.  Except he's "not a gamer," he's told me a half-dozen times since this reveal.  He has good things to say about Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, and that's about it - he didn't know that Outlast is a thing, for example.

I asked him today if he picked up Second Son over the weekend, and he explained that he does yard work in the summer (it's still very wintery here), and won't be buying any more games 'till next winter.  He asked me if it was good, and I could only ask if he'd played the first two games.

At first he said yes, but it turned out he was thinking about Far Cry 3.  Then he asked me how Second Son was.

"Well it's absolutely gorgeous," was the best I could say without comparing it to the first two games.

"So it's worth buying then, eh?" (We're Canadian.)


But, I'll be honest, I don't want to write that about an inFamous game.  The series has been too good to me, in previous years, to write Second Son off after a single playthrough - even if that's usually all I'm prepared to give a game.

No, I need to spend more time with it until my perception crystallizes into something absolute. Which will be harder than it sounds, because Dark Souls II remains fucking awesome.  I am in possession of the newest, hottest PS4 games (if you wanna' count Ground Zeroes), but I'd much rather keep spending time with my PS3.

I finally grabbed The Forgotten Key off the elite giants beneath the Gutter last night, and returned to its inky depths in search of the greatest greatshield in the game - Havel's Greatshield.  I snagged it, and all the points I'd been pouring in to my carry weight paid off, as I can equip the shield, a full set of armor and my giant sword of ridiculousness without any reduction in roll or run speed.


I took my new gear to the lava pools of the Iron Keep, easily besting the knights guarding the place, but having a bit of trouble with the Smelter Demon.  Havel's shield permits me to entirely block the Smelter's attacks, but once he sets his sword on fire, a bit of fire damage will get through with every strike.

It took a half-dozen attempts - earning roughly 8,500 souls on each trip to him off the knights - and by the time I took him down, my earned souls plus his bounty left me with like 130,000 souls.

Ding, motherfucker.  How can I give that up?

I can't, that's how.

In other news, SteamWorld Dig is a pleasant little diversion, thus far. And that's all I'm givin' you today.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Game Diary - Luftrausers, Second Son and Dark Souls.

I've no idea when it occurred in the past year, but at some point Luftrausers went from "meh" to "I'll check that out."

Now that I've checked it out, I'm back to meh again.  I can't imagine wanting to play it on my big screen, and I'm not actually having all that much fun with it on my Vita.  This seems to be one of those games that will click, and after a bit less than a week, it refuses to do so.  Strategies don't seem to have much of an impact on how long I survive, and for the life of me, battleships just keep kickin' my ass, so I can't seem to make a blimp spawn (if that's even what makes blimps spawn?).

Today, though, the PlayStation Blog reminded me that SteamWorld Dig had launched with the latest PSN update, so that will be my next thing to taste-test on Vita.

Luftrausers is a game I want to like, but... I don't, thus far.  I appreciate its minimal four-tone color palette, I love its soundtrack, and I don't have much fun playing it.

It's really, really, ridiculously good-looking. 

I'm also terribly sad to admit I enjoyed inFamous: Second Son less than any previous inFamous game.  And when I say "enjoyed" I mean, yes, it released on Friday and I already beat it.  I beat it Saturday afternoon, as a matter of fact, and then started over to see how much things change when you go with evil karma (hint: combat's a lot funner, and that's pretty much it).

A lot of it comes down to precisely what a lot of reviews have praised it on - locomotion.  I'll go in to it in greater depth in the review, but the short version is I miss grinding power lines, there's no equivalent in Second Son, and they've dialed back the platforming's "stickyness" to the point that it's actually a lot harder to get where you want to go.

You're no doubt aware that smoke and neon are only the first two power palettes you earn in Second Son, but I'm afraid things never get any funner than smoke - and the third power is just stupid.

I love you, Sucker Punch, but that third power is stupid and I don't like it.

I'll put more time into inFamous: Second Son - often my affection for inFamous titles deepens over time - but I'll admit I really wish I was just gettin' back to Dark Souls II.

Here, at the close of the first quarter, Dark Souls II is the best thing I've played thus far in 2014.  Like Demon's Souls, it viciously seizes upon my imagination and entices me to return to its beautiful, magical dark fantasy world.

The kid in me salivates at the thought of all the ancient cities, castles, forests and crypts that remain untouched.  The joy of exploration, here, is as vibrant and dazzling as the 'play itself - and I long to see what unspeakable foes lay in wait to kill me, and be killed in return.

I wonder if I can put some time into it before Family Guy comes on...

Sorry for the lack of post, yesterday.  You understand.  March has been pretty insane, in terms of games that need playin'.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Wolfenstein: The New Order - On a Train to Berlin.

Wolfenstein is lookin' pretty good, to me - but looking far better is Dark Souls II.  I finally got to The Gutter last night, and Havill's shield is finally within my grasp - I'm absolutely in love with that game - but lo! inFamous: Second Son is also within my grasp.


It was hard gettin' to sleep last night.  I woke up an hour before my alarm went off this morning, like a kid on Christmas - it's inFamous: Second Son day.  The lukewarm review don't phase me - no inFamous game has ever scored particularly well - but they are fun. FUN in all-caps bolded italics.

Now I just have to get through the work day.

Mighty No. 9 alpha gameplay.

This mega-reminds me of another game... man, I can't quite put my finger on it...   Nah, probably nothing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wow, Sony actually IS showing its VR headset at GDC!

We'd heard rumors that Sony would be unveiling this at every major trade show for the past two years - so I was more than a bit cynical when the rumors began circling prior to GDC.  Lo and behold, here it is.  Say hello to Project Morpheus.

   • Component - Processor unit, head-mounted unit

   • Display Method - LCD

   • Panel Size - 5 inches

   • Panel Resolution - 1920xRGBx1080 (960xRGBx1080 per eye)

   • Field of View - 90 degrees

   • Sensors - Accelerometer, Gyroscope

   • Connection interface - HDMI + USB

   • Function - 3D audio, Social Screen

All are subject to change in the final version.  Press release!

"Sony Computer Entertainment today announced the development of "Project Morpheus" − a virtual reality system that takes the PlayStation 4 system to the next level of immersion and demonstrates the future of gaming. SCE will continue development of Morpheus looking towards a future commercial launch.

"At SCE we view innovation as an opportunity to build on our mission to push the boundaries of play," said Shuhei Yoshida, President of SCE Worldwide Studios. "Project Morpheus is the latest example of innovation from SCE, and we're looking forward to its continued development and the games that will be created as development kits get into the hands of content creators."

Morpheus enables developers to create experiences that deliver a sense of presence - where players feel as though they are physically inside the virtual world of a game. Presence is like a window into another world that heightens the emotions gamers experience as they play. Morpheus features a visor style head-mounted display and works seamlessly with PlayStation Camera to deliver a unique VR experience right before the player's eyes. Inertial sensors built into the head mount unit and PlayStation Camera accurately track head orientation and movement so as the player's head rotates, the image of the virtual world rotates naturally and intuitively in real-time. Furthermore, in supporting games, the player can use a PlayStation Move Motion Controller as an object, such as a sword. Morpheus will reproduce the player's hands and sword within the game so the player feels like they are physically fighting off enemies with their sword in the virtual world.

Morpheus adopts 3D audio technology uniquely developed by SCE. In addition to sounds coming from front, behind, left and right, Morpheus re-creates stereoscopic sounds heard from below and above the players, such as footsteps climbing up stairs below them, or engine noises of helicopters flying overhead. Sounds that players hear change in real-time depending on their head orientation, creating a highly realistic audio environment within an immersive 360-degree virtual world. 

Along with PlayStation Camera, Wireless Controller for PS4, and PS Move, Morpheus will deliver immersive breakthrough entertainment experiences to gamers through the PS4 system, leveraging SCE's expertise across key areas for VR – including display/optics, audio, tracking, control, ease of use, and content.
Developers will be able to create Morpheus content for PS4, a platform which has sold over 6 million units only after 3 months and a half of its launch, and is continuing to show strong momentum. The Morpheus dedicated SDK is currently under development and will become available when ready.

During the Game Developers Conference 2014 held in San Francisco from March 19 through March 21, attendees can visit the Sony Computer Entertainment America booth to have a hands-on experience with Morpheus, which will be exhibited for reference. Attendees can enjoy exclusive technology demo such as EVE Valkyrie (CCP), a multiplayer dogfighting shooter that uses virtual reality to give the player the sense of being a real pilot in an EVE Online spaceship, Thief (Square Enix), which allows players to explore the dark shadowy world of the stealth action title, "The Castle" (SCE) that shows various VR interactions utilizing PS Move, and "The Deep" (SCE), where players can observe the waters from inside a shark proof cage."

Now, the big question will be price.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Game-diary-movie-Savant Ascent looks cool.

I have Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes for my PS4 - it's installed and everything - but it's the gentle theme song for Dark Souls II's Majula that's calling me - so I'll try to make this quick.

First of all, Maleficent looks totally cool and I wanna' see it.

Second, The Incredibles is officially getting a sequel, and that's awesome.

Third, Luftrausers finally drops today, so I'll have to snag that on Vita (even though I haven't finished the latest Muramasa DLC). ...if it's a reasonable price.  I don't think I could convince myself to pay $15 for it.

Fourth, there's a cool new dev diary for inFamous: Second Son about the sound tech, but it ends up being a commercial for the new PS4 headphones.

Fifth, something called Savant Ascent is coming to PS4, it looks kinda' cool but I refuse to trust it until I see a gameplay trailer.  It has some lovely .gifs, though.

Oh wait, here's an old trailer from when it was on Steam Greenlight...

...why is this on PS4 and not Vita again?

Okay, it's Dark Souls time - g'night!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I love this game.

I'm probably approaching 20 hours in Dark Souls II, level fiftysomething, I think.  I've poured 45 points into strength, because I'm already shooting for my standard build: a shield that can block anything in one hand - a greatshield that can absorb a dragon's tail whip as easily as assault of a kitten's paw, light armor beneath - and a small, zippy blade in the other.

Usually I favor the faster, curved blades - a heavily-upgraded falchion was my weapon of choice in Demon's Souls, and Quelaag's Furysword served me very well in Dark Souls - but I came across an early-game ultra-greatsword, simply called "greatsword."  It is, clearly, a cousin to the Buster Sword.

It's a massive, heavy, wicked-looking thing, with great chips in the blade and an unstoppable force to its swings.  Fortunately, my STR was already beefed up, so I could equip it immediately, and soon found I'd abandoned my fast, reliable Falchion +3 for the eminently tricky Greatsword +5.

It's a completely different gameplay experience.  A much sharper risk-reward edge, in which a missed blow will leave me wide open but a landed one will take massive chunks off even a boss, or insta-kill normal mobs.  It highlights Dark Souls' slow but strategically-potent combat, in which the buttons you pressed a second or half-second ago must be well-chosen, based on experience and knowledge of your foes, as attacks or taking a swig of a healing potion cannot be cancelled and will be brutally exploited.

After a brief trip across town to procure shoes, Kayla and I spent most of today lounging around while I played Dark Souls II, and about every fifteen minutes or so - as I crept along ramparts under a shimmering moonlight, striding towards a white-cloaked warrior with my shield up and a ridiculous weapon across my shoulder, my cape rippling in the wind - I would utter "God, I love these games."

These dudes have a name, but I just call them the Turtle Knights.  The first time one flattens you with that mace, you will fear them like nothing you've met before.  By the time you're through with them, you will know every move in their repertoire - exactly how to evade them, to what degree each of their attacks leaves them open and precisely how much time each permits you to get in there and put the hurt on him.

Souls games are - inFamous aside, perhaps - my favorite action games of the past decade.  Nothing else offers such pure, vicious strategy - where being too aggressive may get you killed, but it's may also be the surest way to keep the odds manageable.  When you swing open a door and find a few drunken undead mercenaries asleep across some bar tables in No Man's Wharf, the pirate town from hell, you don't give them time to notice you.  You don't draw them in to the courtyard and potentially, patiently fight them three-on-one - you blitz into the room, swing the ultra-greatsword in an overhead arc and whomp! it through the table they're sitting at, instantly killing one of them as another comes to terms with the fact that the table he was leaning on is now splinters, and draws his blade.  But you don't give him time to wind his swing, because a second ago, you already committed to swinging, and your superweapon swoops in a great horizontal strike through his chest.  He falls as shimmering moonlight-mist, the light of his souls, drifts from his fading corpse into your chest.

You turn to face the last one - a mean fucker with one sadistically-curved blade in each hand - and you don't bring your shield up.  He snarls and dashes for you, but it's already too late for him.  One second ago, you already committed to the decisive, brutal blow that will finish this.

God, I love this game.

In other news, I just now, today, discovered that the link I was using in my sidebar to McCracken's blog didn't actually work.  So that's fixed now!  Go to McCracken's blog and see what he's sayin' about the new season of Hannibal and Dark Souls II (hint: both are awesome).   By the way Alex, I stumbled across something called Feeding Hannibal - it's the blog written by Hannibal's food stylist, explaining the whys of Hannibal's beautiful presentations and even some recipes!

Which reminds me, I need to send Mogs an email.  Mogs?  Check your email.  I need your aid!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

inFamous: Second Son and Titanfall - the jibba jabba.

Things are gonna' get a little console war-y in this post - be ye warned.  March isn't merely a month overstuffed with awesome games (still haven't finished Thief, haven't even taken the shrink wrap off Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, haven't touched the new Walking Dead episode), it's also a straight-up Microsoft vs. Sony month, as major platform exclusives Titanfall and inFamous: Second Son launch.

It is, perhaps, unfair to compare the two - this is so apples-and-oranges it crosses over into apples-and-echidnas, the spiny anteaters, territory.  Comparisons are downright silly, but here we are.  Please note all the plusses and minuses below do not reflect my opinion of either game's quality, but represent what impact each facet of a game should have on its financial success.

Titanfall is the latest entry in what is the most-lucrative triple-A gaming market - the multiplayer first-person shooter, keeping company with titles like Halo, Killzone and of course, Call of Duty (+1), launching across multiple platforms with a potential audience in the hundreds of millions thanks to its PC SKU (+1). It was developed by Respawn Entertainment, a crew famously populated by the talent that took Call of Duty to the stratosphere (+1) and Microsoft and EA are throwing a ton of advertising dollars at it (+1).

It's currently available for PC and Xbox One, and will come to the Xbox 360 on the 25th - likely widening its web of impact, but the fact is it's a new IP, and your average Fratty L. Brodude has no idea of its excellent pedigree.  They've seen the commercials, discounted it as a game they've never heard of, and perhaps moved on (-1).

Titanfall: +4, -1

Like Titanfall, inFamous: Second Son is the product of experienced developers with proven talent (+1) and is enjoying a lot of advertising dollars from Sony (+1), but that is where the similarities end.  While the franchise has never seen the stratospheric sales of The Last of Us or Uncharted, as a sequel, inFamous: Second Son will nonetheless enjoy a built-in market of fans who're no doubt hungry for the latest thing from Sucker Punch (+1).  I know I am.

It's a strictly single-player title, a rarity when every open-world game from Assassin's Creed to GTA to Watch Dogs ensures to include the long legs of multiplayer (-1), and a platform-exclusive, launching only on Sony's latest hardware - which currently confines its prospective market to around five million PS4 owners (-1).

inFamous: Second Son: +3, -2

Titanfall should be owning it up right now, but that's not what's happened. Given its heavy advertising presence and mindshare among gamers like you and I - we know what this thing is - you'd think its sales on PC, at least, would have approached or exceeded the million mark.  But no, thus far, as of last night, Microsoft will only boast to "hundreds of thousands" of folks playing Titanfall.

That seems like a weirdly small number for this title, considering all it's got going for it.  The only hit against the game is the fact that it's a new IP.

Titanfall's limited mindshare in contrast to inFamous was pointed out, last night, by industry insider Pete Dodd (aka famousmortimer), who remarked that inFamous's "social metrics ... are through the roof."

When asked for clarification on what the heck that means, Dodd cited YouTube views, Twitter mentions and preorders, and singled out these two YouTube trailers, each posted within one day of each other.  First up, Titanfall's Official Gameplay Launch Trailer, posted on March 6th.

With a Metascore of 86 on Xbox One, Titanfall has received almost nothing but the highest praise from critics, who insist it's nothing less than an evolution on a genre that had stagnated long ago.  But do the people care?  As of this writing, the above trailer has been viewed two hundred and seventeen thousand, thirty-one times.  Hardly chump change.

inFamous: Second Son, of course, has not yet launched - but I can pretty much guarantee you it won't see review scores like Titanfall.  Its lack of multiplayer will no doubt hamper it with the critics to the same degree BioShock was hamstrung for its single-player-only pastiche, and there are much, much fewer PS4 owners than there are PC owners.  This is inFamous's Official Live Action Spot - which, if you'll forgive me, isn't nearly as good as Titanfall's trailer above.

It was posted on March 7th - after Titanfall's trailer - and has, in less time, been viewed four million, seven hundred and forty-six thousand, nineteen times.  To quote Dodd,
"To find anything even close on titanfall's youtube you have to go back to october.  2.3 mil views. Their E3 video is just over 3 mil."
Good lord.  You'd think this better inFamous trailer would've gotten more views, but whatever.  The people have spoken in their own alarmingly guileless way, and Dodd's right - many, many more people seem to be buzzing about inFamous than Titanfall.

Not within the enthusiast press itself, of course.  For months now, Titanfall has dominated coverage whenever any new media was released, and nothing but glowing previews have appeared.

Is it really, merely, inFamous's position as a franchise that allows it this strength?  Will its apparent popularity translate into healthy sales on the fledgling PS4?

Stay tuned.  We'll find out if YouTube views translates to real-world impact when Second Son drops this Friday.  And now, lets enjoy some brand-spankin' new screenshots of Sucker Punch's latest (click to embiggen).

Blast shards are back.  Yesss!